Last Updated on July 13, 2020
Today, I want to show you how to build a Joel Salatin style chicken tractor. Joel Salatin has almost perfected the art of pastured poultry so his model is a good one to start with. In the following article I want to show you the steps I used to build my chicken tractor. Although it’s not an exact copy of Joel’s, it was inspired by his and is built in a similar fashion.
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Introduction to How to Build a Joel Salatin Style Chicken Tractor
A chicken tractor is a portable chicken coop that gives your chickens access to new forage every day, protects them from predators, and allows them to fertilize the ground as they are moved around. The specific chicken tractor I’m going to show you how to build is for broilers or meat chickens and is built in a similar style to the Joel Salatin chicken tractors if you know what those look like. Here’s how I built mine.
Step 1: How to Build the Frame
What I did here was I took eight two-by-fours that are ten feet long each and I created this box. I put the two-by-fours up on their sides, I screwed them together, and then I took two-by-twos and I put them in each corner.
Note: I highly recommend using this type of torx screw when assembling your chicken tractor (or anything on your farm for that matter). They work much better than phillips screws because they aren’t prone to stripping and hardly ever slip out of the torx bit.
The two-by-twos they were actually two-by-fours that I ripped down the center because the hardware store didn’t have any cedar two-by-twos. The reason I use cedar is because cedar has a natural rot resistance and we try to stay away from any type of pressure treated lumber here on the farm if we can, especially when we’re dealing with housing animals.
I used the cedar on the bottom and in the corners. The top is pine because it’s gonna stay off the ground and it should be okay that way. This will obviously not last as long as pressure-treated lumber would but I’m okay with that.
Next, I’m going to show you how to make it more sturdy. I’m going to wrap it in chicken wire, put a roof and some sides on it, and then I’m gonna put a door on one of the corners. This will allow me to get the chickens in and out and take care of them, feed them, water them, and everything else that I need to do with them.
Step 2: How to Install the Bracing
This is what all your bracing will look like when we get done with the following steps.
What I did here was I took two-by-fours and I created beams that form a cross right across the middle. I had to cut one of them and then I toenailed it in to the other one.
Then, I just took a short two-by-two and screwed it underneath the one that I cut to make it even stronger.
Next, I made cross bracing and put it up on each side. To do this, I took two-by-twos, screwed it into the top two-by-four and the bottom two-by-four, and did that on each side.
Finally, I took two-by-twos and I went across each square diagonally. I made it flush with the top so that it would be easy to wrap the chicken wire over the top of the chicken tractor.
Step 3: How to Create an Access Door
I created this door frame so I could gain access to my chickens whenever I need to. Basically, I created a frame out of two-by-twos and put a cross-bracing diagonally across it. I installed some hinges and I can lift the entire thing up when I need to open it.
I cut these two-by-twos down a little lower in each corner so the door can rest right on the top of them.
Next, I’m going to wrap the whole thing and chicken wire, put a roof and sides on, and then I’ll show you what it looks like.
Step 4: How to Cover the Chicken Tractor
After the frame was completed, I wrapped the entire chicken tractor in chicken wire except for the bottom.
On the back half, I covered it with a roof and sides. I used some old mobile-home skirting for mine but you can use any type of roofing or siding material here that you wish. I just happen to have this laying around so I decided to upcycle it. It’s not the prettiest thing in the world but it gives the chickens a place to go to keep the rain, wind, and sun off of them which is very important.
If you do use a material like this, you can use tin snips to trim it down even though it is plastic. They seem to work the best besides using something like a reciprocating saw.
In the back I have a hand truck / dolly that I can use to to move the chicken tractor around. Whenever I’m ready to move it, I just pull down on the dolly, lift the back of the chicken tractor up off the ground, and pull it forward to their new spot. I do that about once every day or two depending on how much they’ve foraged and fertilized at there current spot.
Here is my finished door. Whenever I need to get access to my chickens, I can just lift up on it.
I installed a Plasson Broiler Drinker to provide water to the chickens. It’s a hanging drinker that’s controlled by gravity so, whenever it starts getting low on water, it’s auto-fed by the water that’s in a 5 gallon bucket. It’s really nice because it keeps the chickens out of the water since it hangs. You can also store a lot more water in the 5 gallon bucket than you can with a typical drinker.
If you want to learn more about Joel Salatin’s chicken operation, I highly recommend his book Pastured Poultry Profits.
So there you have it, this is the completed chicken tractor. As always, if you have any questions you can always reach out to me and I’ll try to help you out the best I can. Please comment below and let me know.
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